SESAME STREET had a sequence about the letter H augmented with animation from a Scanimate (an early analog computer animation system) that COMPLETELY. EFFING. TERRIFIED me. You’d be hanging out, minding your own business watching Big Bird and whatever, and all of a sudden this droning, existential, solarized, hypnotic meditation on the letter H came on. That first stoned animal growl of “Riiiiight . . .” from Luis was the call announcing that we had left the safe world of SESAME STREET and were going to enter a frightening Interzone parallel universe. I called it “Electric H”, in the same tones of “He Who Must Not Be Named.”
The worst was that it was a clip that wasn’t in heavy rotation, so you never knew when it would come on. It got to the point where I would check to see what the letter of the day was and wouldn’t watch any shows that said they were “sponsored by the letter H.” My parents knew I was terrified of this and were very sympathetic about me running to turn the T.V. off as soon as it came on, but I remember one day in the kitchen when it came on, right after a Bert and Ernie sketch (and it wasn’t even an H day!) and there I was, trapped, because our old black and white T.V. was on top of the refrigerator and I wasn’t tall enough to reach it. Electric H, beaming its satanic bizarreness from little me from on high, for what seemed like eternity. I screamed and screamed until one of my parents came to rescue me. (Electric H is even scarier in black and white, btw. It’s like ERASERHEAD.)
The irony is, I grew up to be quite fascinated with the computer animation and video art of this era (Nam Jun Paik, for example), so even though this was a traumatic experience maybe it horrified and fascinated me in equal measure? In any case, after finding “Electric H” on YouTube I’m not going to sleep tonight.